The Words of the Maeda Family

The Nations South Of the Sahara

Makoto Maeda
October 1983

My original mission country is located just southwest of the Sahara Desert. When I first went there, I traveled through Spain and took a ship along the edge of the Mediterranean Sea.

Suddenly, the continent of Africa appeared before me like a black mirage. This first impression of a 'dark continent' never left my mind. Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria have very old and famous cultures.

The great city of Carthage was built in Tunisia. St. Augustine spent his childhood in Algeria.

Morocco once conquered Spain so completely that Europe was said to begin at the Pyrenees Mountains. Spain was under the influence of Islamic culture for more than two centuries. Historians have very little to say, however, about the Africa below the Sahara Desert.

Three major influences shaped the character of West Africa.

1.) In the 12th century, Moroccan King Almoravid conquered the Empire of Mali and found a prosperous Islamic culture with many great mosques already flourishing there.

2.) From the 15th century until the 19th century, the slave trade cast a dark shadow over the lives of millions of African people.

3.) In the 19th century, France colonized West Africa. The intention of the French was to assimilate the African people into their culture. French education was emphasized, and many Africans came to regard Paris as the most wonderful city in the world. These countries became independent during the 1960's but France retained a powerful influence there.

My Original Mission Country

At one time my mission country was a center of French colonization in Africa. In the capital city brilliant flowers of hibiscus, bougainvillea and flame trees contrast sharply with the tall white buildings. The women are extremely conscious of fashion and like to wear a mixture of Parisian and African styles. They are willing to go without food in order to spend their money on clothes and cosmetics. Many of our members fundraise with beauty products!

Over 80 percent of the population is Muslim. Every morning at 5 o'clock, the muezzins (priests) in the mosques begin praying loudly over their public address systems. Many times, Europeans complained to the government that their sleep was being disturbed! On Fridays, believers kneel to pray in the streets surrounding the mosques. When we walked past them, they glared at us as though we were pagans. Our weekend workshops had to be scheduled so that the Muslim guests could pray five times a day -- otherwise the lectures would be disrupted!

It is very difficult to work in a Muslim country. One time I visited Morocco. This country is known as the "Watchdog of Africa" because it keeps a close watch on the whole continent. If something new or strange arrives in Africa, Morocco is immediately on the alert. In the movie named "Casablanca," the Moroccan city Casablanca seems like a romantic place. Actually it is an old Islamic capital with a tense atmosphere and noisy streets. Before, the French constructed many Catholic churches in the city. Today the buildings are still standing, but there are no Catholics! If any Christians are discovered, they are put into jail.

I had to stay in a hotel. Suddenly five strong men grabbed me and took me to a police station in their car. In a room just outside the prison cells, one policeman accused me for half a day, and finally seemed satisfied and released me. One policeman continued to follow closely behind me. This time, the door of the church center was unlocked, but the policeman wanted to go in with me! I turned and scolded him, "Even if you are a policeman, you have no right to enter this house!" He was defeated and went away.

In my mission country I worked together with the German and American missionaries for about ten months. Then one morning a tough-looking policeman with a paper in his hand knocked on the door of our center. He ordered me to come to the Immigration Office, together with the German brother. There we met a French police inspector. Behind the thick glasses, his eyes were very piercing. He asked us many, many questions and finally realized that we were members of the Unification Church. Then he began searching through his file on religious sects but found no information on our movement. That day he released us, but several weeks later the same policeman came and summoned me to another police office. One month before, though our membership was very small, we had been able to arrange for our American sister to meet the president. She had presented him with a Divine Principle book. Perhaps this attracted the attention of the Islamic leaders and French secret advisors.

The police station was filthy. A policeman spoke many words to me in French, but at that time 1 understood almost nothing! Finally he remembered some schoolboy English and shouted, "You-have-to-leave!" He warned me that, if I tried to come back, I would be sent to a terrible prison, on an island where slaves used to be kept for shipment. A few days later the German brother was also forced to leave.

Return to my mission country

After being forced to leave my country I suffered very much physically and spiritually. At that time I had a high fever. I felt defeated and couldn't understand why I had to leave. I decided to pray for an answer. I prayed for several hours. Suddenly I had a strong vision of Mr. Sang Ik Choi, the first Korean missionary to Japan. I saw him standing on the deck of a ship leaving Korea for Japan. On the dock below, Father was saying goodbye and watching him go. I began to cry, and I realized that a missionary's course is one of deep suffering. At that moment I pledged to continue my mission work, even if it meant prison or losing my life.

Once more I flew across the Sahara Desert. In the plane I thought, "Why is it that man needs passports and visas, when birds can fly so freely across national borders?" I did not know how I would get into my country! I thought about the sad history of Black Africa. Millions of people were forced to leave their homeland as slaves. Today newcomers are still resented and mistrusted. I remembered a beautiful place which I had visited, the village of Jufureh. It was the birthplace of Kunta Kinteh, the hero of Alex Haley's book "Roots." More than 150 kinds of birds sing in the forests around Jufureh -- a bird paradise! But on nearby James Island stands a small fortress, only 50 meters square, which was the target of many bloody battles between the French and English as they fought to take control of the West African coast.

We landed at the airport. I just walked boldly past the immigration officials, and they never checked my passport! I arrived safely at our center. A few weeks later we learned that the police were investigating me and so I left again for a neighboring country.

I began to study the Bible, and I realized that my situation was similar to that of Abraham. When God called Abraham to leave his home in Ur of Chaldea, he obeyed without even knowing where he was going. He had such strong faith, yet later he failed in his sacrifice! Why? He became too preoccupied with his family and his personal problems, and forgot about God. At that time, I too was worrying every day about my personal problems. I repented, and decided to love that country more than any other place. I went out to witness. On the way to the witnessing area, a large nail gashed my foot badly. I ignored it and walked on with a bleeding foot. Only a few minutes later I met a boy who was very spiritual. The next day the American sister and I visited his home and invited him to our center. He soon became a member.

I worked in that neighbor country for one year. In my original country the American missionary had been able to stay and continue witnessing. Now she began to write to us about the many difficult situations which she faced there. When I read these letters I felt very sorry about her situation. I wanted to go back and help her.

Returning once more

I made up my mind to return, secretly, one more time. When I thought about how I would cross the border, I felt tense, like a high school student before his final examination.

This time I flew in a very small and very old airplane to a neighboring country. I was going to try and cross the frontier in a remote jungle area. Although the border was a long way from the capital city, it was well-patrolled by soldiers. I rode across the border in an old taxi, jammed between two native people. Somehow, the border guard who checked our car never noticed me! As we drove away, my heart swelled with excitement and I said, "Heavenly Father, I made it! Mansei!"

I had been back in the center for several days when I went out for a walk. Suddenly a car hit me from behind. The impact knocked me three meters. By-standers gathered around me as I lay in the street and wanted to take me to a hospital. The pain in my back was excruciating but I was afraid that if I went to the hospital, I would attract the attention of the police. I forced myself to stand up and hailed a taxi to take me back to the center. Fortunately I was only bruised and could soon walk around again.

A few days after my accident I witnessed to a young man who joined the church. I felt that God could give me this spiritual child because I was willing to sacrifice my life to return to my mission country. I understood God's providence more deeply than ever before.

I found a job as a translator for a Japanese business company. In this way I could offer economic support to our center. Through this company, the Japanese government was supplying economic aid to the people of the country. Often I had to visit the offices of important government officials, like the Minister of Fishing. One day, while translating for my employer at a trade fair in a large hotel, I came face to face with the policeman who had deported me! My heart almost stopped with shock! But he did not recognize me, because I was wearing a business suit and tie. This occurred several more times while I was working for the Japanese company, so I was always tense!

I discovered that my spiritual son's uncle held an influential position in the immigration office. This uncle and his wife were very positive about our church, because they saw how their nephew's life had been completely transformed when he joined. They began exerting all their influence to get a visa for me. Their attitude moved me deeply because I realized that God was helping me directly. Before I learned the outcome of their effort, I was called to a mission in another country. By this time the difficult situation in our center had improved, and I could leave without regret. 

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